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[B-SIDE Podcast] Kumain ka na ba? The social role of food

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The cliche “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is especially true in the Philippines, where food is central to gatherings and “kumain ka na ba” or “have you eaten” is a common greeting.

When the pandemic struck, the simple act of breaking bread in the presence of friends and family was taken away from us.

In this B-Side episode, John Paolo C. Dalupang, a research associate at the Institute of Philippine Culture and lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, tells BusinessWorld reporter Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan about the social role of food.

Mr. Dalupang, who has done research on feeding programs, public health, and disaster resilience, shares what he’s learned about what we lost when we were deprived of social gatherings and how our relationship to food has changed because of the pandemic.


Food can maintain identities and relationships.

“Food practices enable people to create and maintain cultural, racial, and ethnic identities,” said Mr. Dalupang, adding that it is the ritual of food preparation and sharing that helps build relationships.

“It’s the experiences that surround the food that really help form the bonds,” he said.

Food can sometimes express what words cannot, he continued, like when someone is asking for forgiveness or when courting someone.

“I think, in general, when we give food to others, there is this notion of concern.”

Food is a status marker.

“Food is a reflection of the particular context that you are in,” said Mr. Dalupang

Food preferences can hint at what you can afford or where you live.

“There’s this concept called conspicuous consumption wherein you buy things and you ensure that other people see you buying it,” he said.

The pandemic changed our relationship with food.

“We lost the ability to gather and share food but being resourceful, we have made adaptations,” said Mr. Dalupang, who pointed out that Zoom parties allowed us to gather virtually. “The only thing is, it’s still a different feel. A lot of people will tell you that it’s still different when you can sit with each other and actually converse.”

Recorded remotely on Feb. 16, 2022. Produced by Jino D. Nicolas and Sam L. Marcelo.

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